Needless to say that Eric Drouglazet and Nicolas Bérenger are in fine fettle, the pair of them having every reason to celebrate. The former is of course winner of the first leg and has a relatively comfortable lead in the race. He is over an hour ahead of a small trio of pursuers including Marc Emig and the young François Gabart, and above all is enjoying the pleasure of seeing that all the usual key players have been relegated to over three hours astern, or even as much as five or six for some. Nicolas Bérenger also deserves credit. In the position of hunter, he is firmly counting on the next stages to pull out all the stops and attempt the double after his victory last year alongside Thierry Chabagny.
For those who are in the soft belly of the ranking, this leg is also an opportunity to weigh up their experiences and focus on what’s left to achieve. Jean-Charles Monnet aboard Suez Degrémont Environnement Source de Talents, clearly relished the long cavalcades under spinnaker: 'And yet, at the start I was a little timid… I set out with seasickness and all of a sudden I didn’t feel too good and lacked energy. And then once you get going the waves start crashing over you and you realise the water’s warm! It’s like being at Aquasplash.'
Though she wasn’t sick herself, Isabelle Joschke (Synergie) recognised that she’d found the leg hard, very hard even: 'It was very physical and it’s at moments like that where you realise that you haven’t got everything sussed yet. The pace was terrible too. You end up stuck on the helm and you know that you can’t sleep, even though you’re dying to. At that point it’s a nightmare. And the minute you arrive in port, that’s it, it’s all over. You’re really proud of what you’ve achieved and that’s why you’re keen to do it again… In addition, when you’re a girl you have an extra handicap; namely that the boys can stick at the helm to have a wee, whilst we girls….' For Paul Meilhat the race has far exceeded his expectations. After a fantastically negotiated coastal course and an inspired first night the young skipper, for whom this is the big Figaro event, ended up at the head of the fleet.
'Given that everyone else was going west, I told myself that there was a coup to be had by attempting a direct course… This was all the more apparent as I was sure that the Mistral would kick in for everyone. I covered less ground and that paid off.' The end of the course proved to be more difficult for the young sailor: when conditions become strained, experience shows through. Had he known on setting out from Nice that he would now be in 11th place, the skipper of TS Régate Créteil Val de Marne would nevertheless have signed up straightaway.
It’s always the same story: once you’ve had a taste of glory, only victory will satisfy your thirst. So when you are some way from the podium, you don’t know if you should laugh or cry. Thomas Rouxel (Défi Mousquetaires) clearly wasn’t up to his usual form and was justifiably disappointed with the result. 'Everything came down to the night influenced by the calm spell. I saw Baïko steal off into the distance when we’d previously been sailing neck and neck. You see his light fade into the distance and that really gets to you. Now whether that’s due to a lack of success or a loss of vigilance I don’t know. It’s been a long season and it does affect you. This is heightened by the fact that in the Mediterranean, I think it’s highly unlikely that we’re going to have some steady medium wind. You can always dream though…'
It’s a similar scenario aboard Cercle Vert where it’s all Gildas Morvan can think about: 'Everyone keeps talking to me about the French Championship… But personally all I want is a good result in this race. All of a sudden you don’t really know whether to attack or keep a close eye on the little playmates who are threatening my ranking in the Championship. It’s a little uncomfortable and I’m finding it a bit difficult to feel liberated and enjoy the time I’m on the water…' Perhaps that’s the price you have to pay when you’ve tasted the charms of victory and the good fortune which comes with that; everyday life next to that must sometimes seem distressingly banal… In the end isn’t the hardest lesson of all related to learning to deal with frustration?